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May 25, 2022

Prep Basketball: Mustangs fall to Panthers in CCS playoff opener

GILROY — Some nights you’re on and some nights you’re not. Unfortunately for the Gilroy girls basketball team, this just wasn’t its night.
The Mustangs lost 37-28 to Burlingame Tuesday at home in the first round of Central Coast Section Division III playoffs.
“We just had a hard time getting into our flow. I didn’t feel like we ever really found our groove in this game,” Mustangs coach Mitchell Pierce said. “We never really found the momentum; We needed some momentum. I think we had some sparks there, I think we were trying to get it going. Sometimes you have games like this. …Unfortunately these games happen. Unfortunately for us it happened in the playoffs. I’m proud of the girls, they’ve worked hard.”
The Monterey Bay Pacific League champs took an early lead, but Burlingame was always right there with them. The Panthers finally took the lead in the second quarter and never looked back, taking a 19-13 lead into the half.
Adina Valencia hit a big 3-pointer to get the Mustangs within one, 12-11, in the second quarter which ignited the offense. Nia Pollard and Brianna Barron had back-to-back steals only to have that momentum dulled by violations. Those mistakes only fueled the doubt that lingered in the Mustangs’ minds.
“I think, in this game, we said that we were mentally prepared for it, but I think in the back of our heads we were thinking ‘Maybe, maybe not.’ I guess today was just maybe not,” Pollard said.
Sophomore Pollard lead the Mustangs with seven points followed by Leilani Mah with six. Pollard and freshman Maddy Cox also added three rebounds and a steal a piece.
Burlingame clearly frustrated the hosts, causing them to commit nine fouls in the second half which it was able to capitalize on. The Panthers had three players near the 6-foot mark, which seemed to intimidate the smaller Mustang squad.
“It’s not that they were too big and they didn’t seem like they were too balanced when they ran,” Pollard said. “He (Pierce) kept telling us to be aggressive, I think their height kind of got to us and we didn’t drive as much as we should have. Our shots didn’t go in as much as they should have.”
The Panthers will move on to round two where they will face Notre Dame-San Jose at 7 p.m. Thursday. For the Mustangs, however, their seasons ends here. They have much to be proud of, ending the season with an 11-1 league record, earning their first league title since 2011, as well as a 16–9 overall mark. 
“This is where you want to play your best game,” Pierce said. “I think the girls would admit today wasn’t their best game. I’m going to look at the film and see what I need to learn from it and what I could’ve done different.”

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